MAGGIE – FIE Student Stories: Studying Abroad During COVID-19

It was 2007, the early days of YouTube, when “Charlie Bit My Finger” blew up. I was 8 years old at the time, and I couldn’t get enough of it. What began as my silly reenactments of the video, turned into full on speaking in a British accent. I would keep it up for days on end – driving my older brothers wild! It was then that I declared I would study abroad in London. 

Fast forward thirteen years, I am now nearing the end of my  junior year at Marist College, studying Communications and Art History. And although I haven’t practiced my British accent in years, I’ve done it. I studied abroad in London. And, for 2-1/2 months, it was everything that I had expected. In fact, as I walked through Notting Hill on one of my first evenings in London, I remember thinking, “Wow I actually live here,”  Nobody had any idea that, a couple months later, we’d be in the midst of a global pandemic.

As more and more schools began pulling their study abroad programs across Europe, I knew the end was coming. I sat at my internship waiting for my phone to light up on my desk with the email. Despite wishing with my roommates for no bad emails, it was later that Thursday night when the notification arrived.  The staff at both FIE and Marist Abroad were very supportive in all the ensuing chaos. Miraculously, I could easily change my flight to the following Monday. That gave me 3 days to do everything I had yet to see in London. 

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First order of business was souvenirs. I bought approximately 25 postcards, a few to send but mostly to keep. Throughout my European travels,  I had picked up a couple postcards in each city, with London being the most important! The walls of my dorm room next semester will be covered in postcards from London.  Next, I paid my final visit to the Tate Modern, my favorite London museum. Kew Gardens and the Harry Potter Studio Tour were the last two things I checked off my list. I’m so happy I didn’t miss out on the trip to Warner Brothers Studio hosted by FIE – it was the perfect way to spend my last day in London.

I arrived in Boston on Monday afternoon, where I had heard horror stories of travelers waiting in line for up to eight hours for COVID-19 screenings. But luckily, it only took me a few minutes to breeze through the screening.  I also received information about self-quarantining and taking my temperature twice a day for two weeks. 

Since my arrival home, I’ve been finishing my British Life & Business key course online as well as a revised internship course administered by Marist. In addition to coursework, I have been keeping in touch with my internship placement at The Courtauld Institute of Art. I hope to visit their renovated gallery when I return to London someday soon.

Although bittersweet to be back home, I’ve enjoyed catching up with my family and sharing my experience with them.   In my newfound free time, I am organizing all my mementos to create a study abroad scrapbook. I saved tickets, business cards and napkins from my favorite restaurants, museum brochures, anything that could fit in a scrapbook – and of course tons of pictures. The finished product will be something I can cherish as a memory of my time in London. 

And, I’ll be getting back on track with practicing my British accent, so I’m ready for my next London adventure!

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